Sunday, July 01, 2007

My Inevitable Coronary, or: Angioplasty Jolie

In my mind I always call it My Inevitable Coronary - the way I figure I'm going to go out. I call it that because of some family history, my own general laziness, and my inability to tolerate what passes for courtesy in the 21st century.

Anyway, I'm thinking about retiring that one for a while.

“It’s not like I just said that you’ve got cancer,” my doctor said.

And he was right.

“Look at it this way. Instead of something terrible happening, we’ve got a chance to go in and make sure that it doesn’t.”

Readers of this occasional page of complaint may recall my doctor’s words of warning upon achieving my half-century mark:

You know … you’re 50.

The implication being that things can start to happen that we don’t anticipate.

I had begun to notice the shortness of breath even before leaving Endless Bore and Tedium, I think. I didn’t seem to be able to run very far or very fast anymore, even if I was still able to walk for a good couple of miles in the evening without any trouble.

I don’t know why we didn’t try and do something about it before. Certainly we’d discussed having a stress test before, but somehow we never got around to arranging it.

The one time I tried to take one, years ago, it triggered a huge panic attack and so I wasn’t anxious to schedule another one. For some reason, though, during my last visit to the doctor’s office, the idea stuck. I made the appointment, which turned out to be difficult to keep as I’d just started a new job, and got myself on the treadmill.

I’m not sure if this was part of the test, but they played two Jennifer Lopez movies back-to-back while we sat waiting for the next portion of the exercise. I missed the end of one of them, but I’ll assume that things turned out pretty well for everybody.

The test itself involves having an EKG done while you’re walking on a treadmill, pausing occasionally for a refreshing apéritif of radioactive dye. There’s a lot of picture-taking, too, of your heart before and after.

I could feel myself hitting the same wall in the test that I had before, as my hands got damp and I started to feel slightly faint. This time, though, I was determined to get to the end of the thing which, thank god, ended just at the point I figured I couldn’t go on.

I have the sort of doctor you really can’t find anymore. You can call him up anytime there’s a problem and, as a result, he’s very well acquainted with my personality. Which is why he thought it would be better to discuss the results with me personally, rather than have the news come from the cardiologist’s office.

I can be a little skittish.

So he comes in and explains that they found something abnormal. Some part or other of the heart isn’t getting the proper oxygen it needs and they’d like to perform a catheterization. That’s the deal where they thread a phone line up inside your torso and into the heart and have a look around.

Depending on what they find, they may leave behind a stent, a small bit of mesh that can help to prop open a narrow artery.

I’d heard of them before. My father has one. My 90-year-old father-in-law, too.

I think he was expecting more shock on my part, as he seemed to be talking to the patient he expected to find, rather than the one who was there. Which is not to say that I didn’t revert to type more than a few times.

“Aren’t I a little young for a stent?” I asked at one point.

“Yeah,” he said, “you’re a little young for a heart attack, too.”

He’s good, isn’t he?


Post a Comment

<< Home